There will be plenty of beer to be had this weekend on one of the biggest beer drinking days in the United States, St. Patrick’s Day. In fact, $4.5 billion could be spend on this day alone, and breweries will earn about $250 million dollars of that, or 1% of their sales for the year. It is like Christmas for the liquor industry. A great deal of you will drink your traditional Budweiser and Miller/Coors products, dyed green for the holiday. Some of you will step out and hit a stout or Irish red, along with the tradition of the holiday. If you really want to go traditional, you would throw down on a few hard ciders as well, which are still huge on the Emerald Isle and the United Kingdom. Or, you can start to mix it up. Literally.
Many of you have heard of the Black and Tan. Some of you may have had it pre-bottled by Yuengling, Michelob, or other beer companies. It typically is a mixture of pale ale with a stout or porter, poured so the stout layers on top of the ale. Traditionally it is Bass on the bottom, and Guinness on top. When pouring the beer, if you want the layered effect, start with the pale ale first. Fill the glass about half way, then pour in the stout over a spoon or down the side of the glass slowly. The layering depends on liquid density. Most beers have densities that are very similar, so any rapid pouring or disturbance in the bottom liquor will automatically mix the two beers. The stout goes on top delicately. Yes, though it is denser in flavor and color, it is actually scientifically less dense. Go figure. Another variation of this is the Half and Half, where a pale lager (like Harp, so we can stay Irish) is substituted for pale ale. Sometimes the two are used interchangeably, so make sure you know what you are asking for in the bar you will be making your last stumble in.
The science behind the Black and Tan leads to many, many variations. Here are a few of them, as featured in various places around the web:
Black and Blue: Guinness over Blue Moon. It is also known as a “Dark Side of the Moon” or “Eclipse”
Black and Brown: Guinness over Newcastle (Maybe you can find some Mt. Carmel Nut Brown to work with)
Black and Gold: Guinness over Dortmunder Gold
Priest Collar: Guinness over hard cider. Here in the Midwest, we also refer to it as a Snakebite.
Belgian Brunette: Guinness over Stella Artois.
Black and Trash: Guinness over Budweiser. (Make it green for the holiday…)
If you are looking for the traditional Irish way of drinking it, lay your Guinness over some Smithwick’s. This is usually referred to as a Blacksmith or a Pint Special. You can even get something they call just a Special, which it a pint of Smithwick’s with a small layer of Guinness over the top of it, just to give it a nice, foamy head. It would be in very poor form to ask for a Black and Tan. In the 1920’s, the British sent over a special paramilitary unit to try to put down an Irish uprising. They had more people than they had uniforms, so there was a mix of browns from light khaki to almost black. They spent a good deal of their time failing to stop the Irish Republican Army while shooting into unarmed crowds of civilians. This British group, formally called the Royal Irish Constabulary, is known in Ireland as the Black and Tans for their motley uniforms. Your trivia (and Irish Safety Lesson) for the day.
Guinness is not only found floating on top of other beers. It can be found layered on champagne and called a Black Velvet. It is said that after the death of Prince Albert in 1861, Queen Victoria was inconsolable. At his funeral and around the city, she wanted everything to be draped in black. To drape the champagne at funeral and any other royal events n black, they poured in Guinness first, and then topped it off with champagne. It is important to do it in the proper order. Layering in reverse causes a huge foamy mess. Trust the writer on this one.
Beer mixing does not always involve Guinness. If you are looking for something to refresh yourself in this heat we seem to be experiencing, you may want something more light and refreshing. A shandy is an ale or lager (something light) mixed in equal parts with ginger ale, ginger beer, or lemonade. Put the non-alcoholic element in the glass first, and then add the beer on top of it. It is not going to layer, but it is going to mix for something cold and refreshing. If you are looking to add a little more oomph to your beer, you can go for a Depth Charge, which is a shot of liquor added to the beer of your choice. Some more popular options are tequila and Corona, orange vodka and Blue Moon, vanilla vodka and Guinness, and spiced rum and a darker bock or lager. Just remember that you are going to get hit a little harder by the extra shot you are getting with each beer.
If you are going to indulge in a little adventure, try out a few of the above mentioned beer concoctions to add some variation to your day. On the big day, make sure that you are drinking plenty of water to help minimize your hangover, and be sure that you are not driving. Have some eggs for breakfast, or plan to have them the next day, along with some coffee and more water. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Pace yourself. And if you plan on making a toast, here is a traditional one from Ireland…
Saint Patrick was a gentleman,
Who through strategy and stealth,
Drove all the snakes from Ireland,
Here’s a toasting to his health.
But not too many toastings
Lest you lose yourself and then
Forget the good Saint Patrick
And see all those snakes again.